With consoles that cost hundreds of dollars and new games that launch for $60 a pop, being a gamer can be expensive. However, lots of services out there let you access a whole bunch of games for a little bit of money, whether you prefer to rent games by mail or binge on dozens of digital titles Netflix-style. If you're looking for the perfect gift for a gamer or just want to expand your library without burning a hole in your wallet, here are our favorite services for gaming on the cheap.
If you game on Xbox One, EA Access provides a treasure trove of great titles for a small fee. For just $30 per year (or $5 per month), you can play an ever-growing vault of games that includes Star Wars Battlefront, Dragon Age: Inquisition, tons of EA sports games and a bunch of backward-compatible Xbox 360 titles. EA Access members also get to play pre-release trials of major titles, and get 10 percent off digital EA purchases on Xbox One. For PC players, Origin Access provides many of the same benefits.
GameFly (starting at $15.95 per month) is essentially the Netflix of physical game rentals, allowing you to rent up to two titles at a time by mail and keep them as long as you want. GameFly lets you keep any of your rented games permanently for a small extra fee, and sells both new and used games for good prices. The company also offers GameFly Streaming, a $10 per month cloud service that lets you play dozens of digital titles on your Amazon Fire TV as well as on Samsung and LG Smart TVs.
In addition to its myriad of other perks, Amazon Prime ($99 per year) is fantastic for gamers. The service gets you 20 percent off new game releases in addition to free two-day shipping. Prime members also get Twitch Prime, which gives you access to free games and in-game goodies every month while letting you watch your favorite Twitch channels ad-free.
Nvidia GeForce Now
If you have an Nvidia Shield device, GeForce Now ($7.99 per month) lets you stream a growing digital buffet of PC games from the cloud. Highlights include Thief, Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider and Batman: Arkham Origins, with new titles added regularly.
PlayStation Now (starting at $9.99 per month) lets you stream over 450 PlayStation 3 games to both your PS4 and Windows PC for a single fee. The service is an especially good deal for those who skipped the PS3 era, as you can play such last-gen hits such as Red Dead Redemption, BioShock, The Last of Us and the entire Uncharted series, without having to buy each game individually. Sony recently dropped PlayStation Now support for PS3, PS Vita and certain smart TVs, but the service is still going strong on PS4 and PC.
Xbox Game Pass
Launching this Spring for Xbox One (and available now for select members of the Xbox Insider Program), Xbox Game Pass is a $10-per-month subscription service that lets you play over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games. The program's game lineup will include such hits as Halo 5, Payday 2, NBA 2K16 and Soul Calibur II at launch, with games rotating in and out on a monthly basis. All Game Pass games are downloaded to your system (not streamed like on PlayStation Now), and you'll get a special discount on any Game Pass titles you want to buy permanently.
PlayStation Plus ($59 per year, $10 per month) is an essential for Sony fans, particularly those who use multiple PlayStation devices. The service doles out a total of six free games per month: two for PS4, two for PS3 and two for PlayStation Vita. Those titles sometimes support cross-play on other systems, meaning a free Vita game can also be a free PS4 game. PlayStation Plus also gets you all of the main perks of a premium console membership, including access to online multiplayer on PS4, exclusive sales and 10GB of cloud storage.
Xbox Live Gold
If you're looking to fill out your Xbox One library quickly, Xbox Live Gold is a must-have. In addition to giving you access to online multiplayer and exclusive discounts, a Gold membership gets you two free Xbox One games and two free Xbox 360 titles per month. Since all of those free 360 games are backward-compatible, that means four free games every month for Xbox One owners. The program has previously given away such hits as Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, along with beloved indies like Super Meat Boy and Spelunky.
Redbox is one of the last physical rental services standing, and you can borrow the latest hit games from your local kiosk for $3 per day. Better yet, if you sign up for a free Redbox Play Pass, you'll get a free rental for every 10 rentals, as well as free rentals on your birthday and on your sign-up anniversary.
The Humble Bundle is a rotating package of PC games that you can get by paying what you want. You can get the base games in a bundle for as little as $1, though paying more will unlock more titles. Better yet, you get to decide how your money is divided among the developers, a charity and the Humble tip jar, allowing you to both save big and feel good about your purchase.
Steam is the definitive marketplace for PC gamers, especially if you're on a tight budget. The popular platform is famous for its frequent sales, where you can pick up everything from older AAA titles to newer indies for just a few bucks. Steam makes it easy to filter games by price; you'll be surprised at all of the gems you can find there for under $10.